This is a story about my mother in her late twenties.
Bats in the Tower
There was a payphone outside the drugstore. My mother had brown, permed hair, cotton jeans with slim legs, and a tan. She dipped her chin into the receiver and turned away. Her words flowed in a deep, soft melody, while her fingers wove themselves around the segmented, metal cord. Her body sank against the brick building.
The afternoon splattered there, like spilled SpaghettiOs. Left to my own attention, I looked up at the fliers within the glass-covered bulletin board. Church fliers were printed on buttercup colored paper and clippings from the North County News were tacked up with metal pushpins. I could read them, but I didn’t know what they meant.
“Okay,” she said, straightened, and abruptly hung up. She spun on her heels, zeroed in on her car, and walked briskly to the driver’s side door. I hurried to the passenger side, as she hopped in and put the car in gear. Our seat belts buckled, she backed out of the spot, and hit the petal to the floor. I tried to say something, but she hushed me with smack and a “shh” noise of spit and lips.
Quiet on the outside, but brimming on the inside, I twisted in knots upon knots.
She turned down backroads, headed west, south, and north again. We passed barns and open fields, houses on large acreages, thick woods and mailboxes at the end of long, gravel driveways. Finally, we turned and she slowed, as we left blacktop for small stones. Before us was a large, modern cabin, with glistening, tan logs, and huge windows.
I don’t remember her knocking or us being ushered inside. The man who owned the house had dark glasses that he wore inside and a thin cane that sat against the doorframe. I was sent upstairs to play with his son. We played with wooden blocks and created a castle that was taller than me. The kid was older, but nice.
We stayed in his room, at the top of the stairs, for a long time.
Finally, my mother collected me, with a firm hand on my shoulder and large eyes. She bid the blind man goodbye and I waved at the nice boy, as she led me out the door and back to her little, red car.
Months later, we passed the very same house, on the way to somewhere else. I watched it float by my window, the third story like a tower, with a room of only windows. Hung within it were black, paper bats, probably for Halloween.
I tried to ask her about the house, the man, and his son.
She got angry.
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